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2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 25 books toward her goal of 175 books.
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Book Review: Paris By the Book by Liam Callanan

Every book in a bookstore is a fresh beginning. Every book is the next iteration of a very old story. Every bookstore, therefore, is like a safe-deposit box for civilization.

I have been reading other First Readers’ reviews, and am surprised that my reaction to the book was so different than so many others… I found the pacing to work for this novel – it is slower to build than many family dramas, but I felt that contributed to the feeling that Leah’s life was floundering as she and her girls tried to come to terms with their disappeared father. I found Leah frustrating – Robert WAY more so (I have sympathy for him, particularly as his story unfolds, but cannot bring myself to see him as anything other than painfully selfish) – but in a way that felt genuine and believable. I cannot imagine finding myself in her situation (or her life, pre-disappearance, frankly) but felt like she was presented as someone desperately trying to hold everything together despite the world’s insistence that doing so was not, ultimately, a process that was entirely within her control.

My run-away favorites in the book were her daughters – I enjoyed watching them develop as people and characters. I also thought the supporting cast (George and the twins and Madame especially) was generally quite strong. Declan and Eleanor occasionally got on my nerves, perhaps (I suspect) because they felt too earnestly, clearly single-minded and focused – I rather liked the more rambling personal style of the Parisians… I also enjoyed the bookstore and Paris as characters in and of themselves. The story unfolds in an origami-like fashion, and I thought that using narrative and manuscript and organization of the bookstore (and city) references helped that feel somehow more coherent for me. (I know, that sounds odd – but it’s true nevertheless.)

It was a bit of a rambling narrative, but I quite enjoyed it as such and will definitely be on the lookout for more from Liam Callanan. His style may meander more than some readers enjoy, but I for one found it to be as pleasurable as a meander through the city itself…

My review copy was provided through the Penguin First to Read program.

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